Since moving to L.A. from Miami at the age of 18, actor Jordi Vilasuso says he has learned to embrace the struggle as he continues to work hard in an industry he knows he was born for.
Over the last 10 years, Vilasuso, 28, has found most of his success on TV. He starred in the daytime soap opera “Guiding Light” between 2000 and 2003 and also earned guest roles on “Numb3rs” and “CSI: Miami.” In 2005, Vilasuso earned a role in the film “The Lost City,” which starred and was directed by Andy García (“The Untouchables”). García is Vilasuso’s cousin-in-law.
In his most recent film, “La Línea,” (now available on DVD), Vilasuso, who is of Cuban descent, reunites with García to tell the story of a Tijuana drug cartel kingpin. The film also stars Ray Liotta (“Narc”), Esaí Morales (“La Bamba”), and Danny Trejo (“Once Upon a Time in México”).
During an interview with me, Vilasuso talked about growing up in Miami, explained why he skipped college to pursue an acting career and how he keeps close to his Cuban roots while living in L.A.
On your Web site (jordi-vilasuso.com) you described yourself as a hodedor when you were a little kid. Can you explain that word a bit more?
I was always up to mischief. My parents always said I never knew when to give up. I always looked to push buttons. It’s almost like a curse word – like a little @#$&er, but in a charming way.
Were your parents worried or did they think it was just a phase all little boys go through?
There was some worry. But I got the spankings. My parents were old school. I always played with fire, but I never got badly burned. I remember when I was in high school my parents would bring home military school pamphlets. They would always place them on the dining table. I would come home and think, “Some things are going to have to change here because that is the last thing I want.”
You were planning on going to the college to study acting but decided to move to L.A. when you were only 18. Did you feel that getting experiencing in acting would be more beneficial than sitting in a classroom?
There are programs that are really great for acting, but I feel that growth as an actor really comes from being on set or being on stage. I feel actors should have an apprenticeship – choose your favorite actor and see if you can talk to them and ask questions. I don’t necessarily think four years in a BFA program is the best thing. I could be wrong, but there’s a certain amount of maturing an actor needs to be good at what he does.
Who would you have chosen to study for your apprenticeship when you were 18 and who would you choose now?
I would have been knocking on Marlon Brando’s (“The Godfather”) door when I was 18. Now, it would probably be Edward Norton (“American History X”). I would really want to have a conversation with both of them. Anthony Hopkins would be another one. I’d ask them how they dealt with the pitfalls of acting.
Were there times when you moved from Miami to L.A. when you worried that you might not make it in the entertainment industry?
Yes, but acting is what I’ve always been about. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve heard the stories of actors like García who have come over and who have struggled and been able to succeed. Those gave me fuel to keep going. There were times when I was lonely, but you remind yourself why you want to be a part of making great stories.
As a first generation Cuban in the U.S., do you feel connected to your cultural roots in L.A.?
I feel connected because I have a lot of Cuban friends here who I hang out with a lot who are sons and daughters of exiles. Cuba will always come up in conversation. When I get back to Miami one of the first things I do is go to La Carreta (Cuban restaurant at the Miami International Airport). I get my croqueta and my papa rellena and I have a smile on my face.
What have you learned about yourself as an actor over the last decade?
I’ve embraced the struggle more. When I was young I was naïve. I didn’t know what it meant to do something worthy of people watching. The stars might have aligned here and there but now I have more of an understanding of what it means to be successful.